Let me just start off by saying, there is the rest of the world, and then there’s Tokyo. Picture Time Square in New York City, x10 and on steroids. There is something SO electric about Tokyo that I fell in love with. I would recommend dedicating at least 5 days for exploring, because there is just SO much to see and take in.
Fly into Narita or Haneda airport. If you plan on doing a lot of traveling within Japan, considering buying the JR Rail Pass which you will be able to use on JR trains within Tokyo as well.
Where to stay:
Depending on your budget, there are loads of incredible hotels and hostels to pick and chose from in Tokyo. I opted to stay at a hostel, as I was traveling alone and wanted to make friends, and also conserve my money. I stayed at Anne Hostel in Asakusabashi and would definitely recommend it!
What to eat:
Ramen, ramen, and more ramen. Fresh sushi from the Tsukiji Fish Market, green tea flavored everything, tempura, the list goes on…
The subways and trains in Tokyo can definitely be intimidating at first, and it took me a solid 2 days to feel fairly confident. Make sure to ask your hostel or hotel for a subway map in English, as a lot of the maps in the subways don’t use English. Cabs are another option in case you’re having a late night and the subway is closed, or if you can’t be fussed getting lost!
Things to do and see in Tokyo:
Take the subway to Asakusa to shop and eat at the Nakamise markets, and end your visit at the Sensoji Temple.
Hit up Ueno to eat and drink at a traditional Izakaya. An Izakaya is basically a pub where the Japanese go with friends or coworkers to eat, drink, and socialize at night. Izakayas are bustling with young people, and when it gets packed, the seating usually sprawls out onto the street, really making you feel like you’re in Asia.
Head to Shibuya crossing at around 5pm so you can experience the chaos during the day and at night. It might sound a little weird that an intersection is a famous tourist spot, but I promise you, walking on one of the busiest crosswalk intersections at night with the gleaming lights of the billboards reflecting down on you is the biggest adrenaline rush you’ll ever get. This screams Tokyo.
Harajuku is a must see area of Tokyo. If you can, try to go on a Sunday, these are when all of the fashion icons and Harajuku girls are out shopping and showing off their insane style. Don’t forget to try out a famous crepe or an enormous cotton candy!
Bar hopping in Golden Gai. When I was in Tokyo, not many people I spoke to had heard of the Golden Gai district, but I am SO glad I had read about it and decided to check it out, because it was one of my favorite nights I had in Tokyo. Golden Gai is an area of Shinjuku that is comprised of 6 alleyways that are packed with loads of tiny, but lively bars. Each bar sits about 5-8 people, but make sure you find one that says tourists are allowed, as you’ll find most of them are strictly for Japanese regulars that are blowing off some steam after work.
Skip Tokyo Sky Tree, its expensive and the wait to get up might be really long. Check out Tokyo City Hall instead for FREE views of the city skyline.
Do Karaoke like a pro. Grab a group of friends, get a room for at least 2 hours, and sing your heart out like a true Japanese karaoke star. Don’t forget to keep the Sapporo beers flowing for some extra guaranteed entertainment.
If you go during the right season, try to catch a sumo match. I unfortunately wasn’t able to see one, as I went during the off season.
Consider these day trips:
Visit Hakone and the impressive Mt. Fuji. Check to see if you’re in hiking season. If not, you can always attempt to view Mt. Fuji from Lake Kawaguchiko- just make sure you pick a clear day, as Mt. Fuji is often covered in clouds or fog.
Take the train to Nikko to see the Toshogu Shrine, a world heritage site.
Any Disney goers like myself? Escape the city and head to Disney Land or DisneySea to feel even more like a child for the day.